By Steve Silverman
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The news of Darrelle Revis signing with the New England Patriots hit like a pillowcase filled with bricks right to the chops.
Revis was the Jets’ best player for years and the favorite of head coach Rex Ryan. Yes, he had been traded to the Tampa Bay Bucs last year and that hurt, but who would have suspected that the best cover man in the league would wind up with Bill Belichick?
It seems that the Patriots have leveled the Jets with yet another broadside shot. While the Patriots have basically owned the AFC East since 2001, the Jets could always point to Revis and say that he was their equalizer. If the Jets had been decent at the quarterback position and could have pushed the Pats just a little bit, then Revis could have turned the game in their favor.
But with Revis on the Patriots’ side now, what chance do the Jets have?
That’s certainly how it looks on the surface, but the signing of Revis could actually signal the beginning of the end of the Patriots’ dominance.
The Patriots’ way has always been about team play and understanding that no one player is bigger or more important than Bill Belichick’s organization. That certainly includes Tom Brady, who has always gone along with his coach and has been content to be the centerpiece of one of the NFL’s greatest success stories.
Brady has always been willing to play for a bit less than the marketplace would have given him if he had wanted to sell himself to the highest bidder.
Since Brady has always been willing to play ball with Belichick, how could any other player — no matter how valuable — start demanding extra cash and think he would remain in Foxboro?
But the signing of Revis represents just that. It is a one-year rental of a star player for $12 million. If the Patriots don’t win the Super Bowl next season, it seems very unlikely that Revis will return for the 2015 season because he would cost the Pats another $20 million.
That’s not going to happen. But the Patriots felt they had to make that deal when cornerback Aqib Talib left Foxboro for Denver. Talib is a good but not great corner, and certainly the best the Patriots had. When he walked, their secondary was taking on water. Belichick knew he had to go for the big prize. He decided to push hard for Revis, and he spent the cash to bring him in.
The Patriots used to sell their success to potential free-agent signees, and that was enough to help them lure the kind of players they wanted. Of course, free agency was never their bread and butter, as Belichick usually built his team through the draft better than his competition.
There was such a wide talent gap that he didn’t have to spend outrageous amounts of money on big-name free agents.
But the signing of Revis means all that has changed. New England doesn’t have any more of a ring to it than Carolina, Seattle, Denver or Baltimore when it comes to players who have the option of signing anywhere they want to.
It’s only going to get worse from here. Brady may be one of the three greatest quarterbacks of all time, but he will be 37 years old at the start of the season, and there are only so many tough throws left in his right arm.
It may be this year or it may be next, but Brady is going to show the impact of the aging process in the foreseeable future.
When that happens, the Patriots will no longer be special.
The Jets and general manager John Idzik should be able to see the handwriting on the wall. The Patriots’ way is either dead or dying. Their time at the top of the division is running out. If Idzik is as smart as most NFL observers think he is, the Jets will be in a position to take over from their long-time tormentors by 2015, at the latest.
That day can’t get here soon enough for Jets fans who have suffered so much for so many years.
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